The Covid Delta variant has swept across south-east Asia over recent months, prompting lockdowns and overwhelming hospitals – from Malaysia to Thailand and Indonesia. Now the impact is being felt in the Philippines, just as the country’s chronic lack of health workers reaches a crisis point.
“The disease has become very aggressive,” said Michael Bilan, who works on a Covid ward in Manila. This time, patients tend to require a higher amount of oxygen, for longer, he said. The number of Covid patients is also at a record high: last week, 277 were receiving treatment. New wards have been opened to meet demand.
The Philippines is one of the world’s biggest suppliers of nurses, with 17,000 leaving to work overseas, including in the UK and the US, in 2019. But it is increasingly struggling to staff its own wards, where pay is low and conditions poor.
Last week, the Private Hospitals Association of the Philippines estimated 40% of private hospital nurses quit last year, and more have left followingafter new waves of infections this year.
Donald Trump was due to stage a rally in Alabama on Saturday night, in a city that has declared a Covid emergency and in support of a congressman who both backed Trump’s attempt to overturn the election and this week sympathised with a man who threatened to blow up the US Capitol.
The former president will speak in Cullman, Alabama, in support of Mo Brooks’ bid for a US Senate seat.
Like other southern, Republican-run states, Alabama is struggling with a surge in cases of Covid-19 fueled by the contagious Delta variant. On Thursday, the city of Cullman declared a state of emergency.
“We want to prevent as many non-Covid related things as possible, so our hospital can use its resources to focus on the pandemic and its variants,” said Luke Satterfield, an attorney for the city, according to AL.com. “We don’t want to put any extra strain on them.”
Trump’s rally was set to take the stage at York Farms at 7pm local time. Local media reported that organisers expected about 40,000 to attend.
Dr William Smith, chief medical officer for Cullman Regional, told CBS42: “We view this as a potential ‘super-spreader’ event, just like last week’s Rock the South that was [at the same location]. We’ve seen an increase in patients since that event last weekend and we’re concerned we could see the same impact.”
Dan Patrick, the Republican lieutenant governor of Texas, has refused to apologise for blaming rising Covid-19 hospitalisations and deaths on unvaccinated African Americans, comments one Black Houston official called “racist and flat out wrong”.
Doubling down on his remarks to Fox News, Patrick blamed “Democrat social media trolls” and said “Democrats continue to play politics with people’s lives”.
Sylvester Turner, the Democratic mayor of Houston, who is African American, said Patrick’s comments were “offensive and should not be ignored”.
Amid widespread concern over the spread of the Delta variant, Texas is experiencing its highest hospitalisation rates since January. It emerged this week that the state had asked federal authorities for more mortuary trucks.
The overwhelming majority of Covid-19 hospitalisations and deaths in the US are among those who have not received a vaccine.
Speaking to Fox News host Laura Ingraham on Thursday night, Patrick said: “The biggest group in most states are African Americans who have not been vaccinated.
“The last time I checked over 90% of them vote for Democrats in their major cities and major counties, so it’s up to the Democrats – just as it’s up to the Republicans – to try to get as many people vaccinated.”
In his statement on Friday, Patrick said federal and state data “clearly indicate that Black vaccination rates are significantly lower than White or Hispanic rates”. But statistics from the Texas health department did not back him up.